Review: Mages of Mystralia (PS4)

Review: Mages of Mystralia (PS4)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • PC

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Title: Mages of Mystralia
Format: PSN (13.04 GB)
Release Date: August 22, 2017
Publisher: Borealys Games
Developer: Borealys Games
Original MSRP: $19.99
ESRB Rating: E10+
PEGI: 7
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

In the past, mage-kings ruled the kingdom of Mystralia. However, one mage grew crazy with power, burning down opposition and ally alike leading to the nickname the Mad King. He was eventually taken down by the Maquis and out of fear of this happening again the kingdom outlawed all forms of magic and cast out all mages.

So when Zia one day awakens to her latent magic powers, accidentally burning down her house, she is exiled from her homeland. She soon finds a hidden village of mages and seeks to learn how to control her newfound powers in a quest which will eventually lead her to a new threat to the kingdom of Mystralia.

Gameplay:
Mages of Mystralia is a lot like the old 2D Zelda games, but with magic replacing the gadgets Link usually gets. However, rather than having a unique spell for each situation, the game uses customizable spells which can be changed and enhanced at will. It’s an effective system built on a smartly designed game.

The spell system is very intriguing and one of the things that grabbed me when I tried the game at PSX last year. Zia starts out with four basic spells: a slash, a fireball, an ice platform, and a shield. However, by adding runes to each one, and eventually modifying its element, she can change how the spell reacts.

Initially, these are pretty simple. For example, adding a “move” rune to the ice platform has it make a line of platforms at once. Other runes can change other behaviors and properties of the spell, and can even allow it to trigger and cast another spell on its own.

Eventually, these runes can be stacked in different ways for many spell effects. The trigger runes especially allow for some very creative and interesting spells. For example, near the end of the game I had a homing, triple-shot fireball that was set to self replicate when it hit a target. One cast of this would destroy packs of enemies until it either hit a cast limit or it exhausted all my mana – which it did, very quickly.

This rune system is a joy to explore and whenever I would unlock a new one I would spend some time applying it to my different spells to see how it worked. Fortunately the system is snappy and easy enough to use: basically just drag and drop the runes onto a grid. Zia can even keep a handful of spells of each type, which can be cycled quickly and easily without dropping into any pause menu for quick swapping during battles or puzzles.

The magic system ties heavily into the game’s design in combat and in the world and puzzle design. The game’s different areas use different aspects of the custom spells as mechanics for getting through. For example, one area requires platforms made of earth to transverse lava pits while another uses wind projectiles to activate windmills.

In addition to simply getting through the game’s areas, there are many optional puzzles that require some thought and creative use of the spells. Many of these require lighting several torches within a set period of time and may need a special rune or spell to do so. Fortunately, these puzzles have a hint giver near them who will tell you if you have the required runes and will sell a hint as to which runes they recommend.

The overall gameflow is pretty easy to follow and does a good job of keeping Zia out of places she doesn’t have the spells for yet. Generally NPCs will help her figure out where to go next and the map has a quest marker if she gets lost. Sadly, tracking the game’s myriad sidequests is a lot harder as there’s no in-game log of any kind to remember who wants what or where they said you might find it.

The game is a pretty good length, as it took me just shy of nine hours to complete on the easier difficulty. That was with about sixty percent completion rate, as I was missing some of the optional spell runes, wands, and side quests. After finishing, I quickly jumped back in, taking another few hours to find the rest and earn myself a shiny new Platinum Trophy in the process.

Visuals:
Mages of Mystralia uses a simple, cartoony style of graphics that looks good in gameplay but can occasionally seem a little weird in cutscenes. It’s mostly the character models, which don’t look quite as well when zoomed in on. But cutscenes are pretty few and far between so this is a relatively small complaint.

While playing, the game looks pretty good considering the scope of the project. The variety of spells are distinct and weighty when they need to be. The maps in the game are all unique from one another if a little generic for the genre, ice mountain level, lava level, tomb level, etc. Still, the whole package works well and aside from the cutscenes looks pretty good.

Audio:
The soundtrack is okay, using a lot of typical sounding game music that doesn’t stand out much. The one nice thing is the way the music dynamically changes when enemies are around, which is nice both for the change of pace it offers and for alerting you to the presence of enemies.

There are no voices in the game, save for some narration at the beginning and ending of the game. Characters will only offer a grunt or proclamation during dialogue, if anything at all. I don’t think this detracts from the game at all though, just a minor note.

The only issue I had with the audio is an issue a lot of games have: the low-life noise. Many games have a low life alert, and a couple times I got low enough to hear it. However the sound doesn’t go away until you either find some health or die and having to hear the constant alert sound while scrounging for hearts is really annoying.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is one player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
The unique spell customization is the biggest draw and the rest of the game, from combat to puzzles, feels intelligently designed with it in mind. It’s certainly enough to elevate the adventure from bog standard Zelda clone to an indie title worth noticing.

My biggest complaint would be that I wish some of the puzzles were a little more open-ended to take advantage of the spell options. That said, the puzzles and encounters included are creative enough that this is a small issue. What is there is well designed with a good progression of ideas to introduce players to tools they will eventually need for bosses and other puzzles.

The story in the game ends with a clear setup for a sequel and I certainly hope we get one. Until then though, I’m happy to recommend Mages of Mystralia to creative gamers who want a solid adventure worth exploring for a weekend.

Score:
8.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Andy Richardson

Andy Richardson

A longtime PlayStation fan who enjoys JRPGs and rhythm games when he’s not tweeting about his parrot.

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  • Patrick Boskovski

    I agree with the Low Life Alert, its annoying and stressful lol, Otherwise this is a great game.